Down syndrome abortion bill passes Utah Senate Committee

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SALT LAKE – A bill prohibiting abortions for mothers with Down syndrome children moved one step closer to becoming law Monday night. A Senate Committee approved House Bill 205 to move forward to the Senate Floor.

“We’re excited about it,” said Amber Merkley, mother to a child with Down syndrome and worker for Utah Down Syndrome Foundation.

“The information we were given was okay, but a lot of it was outdated. We were directed to a clinic that didn’t exist.”

Merkley believes a lot of mothers are pushed in the direction of abortion by doctors and nurses after a diagnosis is made.

“Fear is the enemy of joy, and we feel a lot of these decisions are made from a place of fear,” she added.

“I think it’s really important that patients get to make this decision and not the State,” countered Michelle Debbink, an obstetrician at the University of Utah.

Debbink disagrees that doctors and nurses push patients towards abortions, but does agree more information and resources should be made available to help consult parents.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Debbink said. “I think that could be true of any genetic condition or any abnormality that can be diagnosed.”

Those in Monday’s meeting did acknowledge the uphill battle the bill now faces. Potential lawsuits could cost the State a lot of money if opposing groups chose to sue the decision.

Additionally, there’s the difficulty of proving the only reason for someone’s abortion is due to a Down Syndrome diagnosis by a doctor. Advocates for the bill admit there’s little they can do to uphold the bill but say it’s more about recognition and making sure nurses and doctors provide unbiased advice than anything else.

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